By Raïssa Robles
Today, a Filipina who threw herself in front of a bus in Hong Kong to shield a boy she was bringing to school was laid to rest in the Philippines.
Citing eyewitnesses, the Hong Kong police said the woman, identified as Juanita Agustin Limbago, 31, had seen the bus bearing down on them as they crossed a street. She quickly grabbed the six-year-old boy and placed herself between the bus and the boy.
“Without regard for her own safety, Juanita turned her back to the bus and used her arm to protect the boy,” the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said in a statement.
Both were dragged by the bus. Later, the bus driver claimed he did not know his bus had hit anyone until someone frantically called his attention.
Juanita died of internal injuries at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Hong Kong. The boy is still shaken but physically fine.
“The Hong Kong police told me ‘your wife is not at fault. The bus is at fault,” Juanita’s husband Edwin told me.
A shocked Edwin told me he had talked to his wife on the phone a few days before the June 10 accident.
Sabi ko sa kanya mag-ingat siya lagi, miss na miss ko na siya, gusto ko na siyang mayakap.
[I told her to take care always. I told her I missed her and I wanted so very much to embrace her.]
Before I go on with the story, I want to thank OWW Administrator Carmelita Dimzon and Dolor of OWWA for helping me look for Edwin in the midst of a raging storm. It was due to their persistent efforts to locate the bereaved husband who had flown all the way from Qatar to Hong Kong to Manila, that the South China Morning Post, which I write for, was able to publish a meaningful tribute to Juanita today.
And of course, I wish to thank Edwin for sharing with me – a total stranger – and the world his family’s private grief.
Edwin said the tragedy had initially made his eight-year-old son Marc very angry.
Sinisi niya anak ng employer, ang driver, at ang Diyos – bakit kinuha nanay niya. Sabi niya, kinuha mo na ang kapatid ko.
[He blamed the child of Juanita’s employer, the bus driver and God – why did He take his mother when he had already taken his brother.]
Edwin explained that their eight-month-old baby had earlier died.
Pinaliwanag ko sa kanya dahil nagalit kasi siya sa Diyos. Anak, sabi ko, huwag mong sisihin ang Panginoon. Kinuha na siya ng Diyos kasi meron siyang misyon sa Panginoon. Ngayon siya na ang nagpapatahan sa mga ibang batang umiiyak.
[I explained to him because he was railing against God. I explained to Marc, `Son, don’t blame God. Your mum was taken away by God because she has a mission with God’. Now, Marc is the one telling the other kids not to cry.]
What gave Juanita the courage to throw herself between the bus and the boy?
I asked myself that question when I was doing this assignment.
I found the answers on Juanita’s Facebook Wall, to which Edwin so generously gave me access and allowed me to quote from and get pictures from.
Juanita and Edwin lived in West Rembo, the lower side of Makati City. They dreamt what you and I also dream of – a house of their own and a good education for their son. Both started college but did not finish – Juanita in Accounting and Edwin in the Philippine Merchant Marine School.
Edwin, 35, used his skills to land a job in Qatar Logistics. Juanita stayed home and tried her hand in selling real estate and educational books. Her decision to work overseas did not come easy for her.
On November 8 last year, she wrote on her Facebook wall that she wanted to “grab the opportunity” to make her dream come true. But she said she also had to consider her husband.
i want my dream come true and by that time i can say ” ive done” my paraan nmn eh kya grab ang opportunity na alam kong kaya ko…sa kbilang banda, i have to consider the decision who is also involve in making my decision…my husband, and with his support and trust sobrang lumalakas ako, na para bang wla nang pwedeng gumiba pa sa pader na sinasandalan ko…. alam ko na nanjan lang sya sa tabi ko sa buhay ko….
[With his support and trust I become fully strong as if there is nothing that can break the wall that I am leaning on….I know he is just here beside me.]
Finally last March 2011 she left for a two year contract as a domestic helper-au pair in Kowloon, Hong Kong. Her Facebook entries are filled with the longing, pain and hope resulting from her separation from her son, husband and home.
Her entry on May 8, Mother’s Day, was full of quiet anguish as she wrote to her young son:
marc today is my day but without you i am not a mother…i love you baby with all my heart…this is our day…
Barely two weeks into her contract in Hong Kong – which OWWA told me started March 2, 2011 – Juanita wrote to Edwin
dear miss na miss na kita…madali lng nmn ang 2yrs eh, kaw nga kya mo ako rin…basta nanjan ka lng pra skin kaya ko lahat lahat!!!! mamimiss ko tlga c marc dear,
Dear, I miss you so very much. Two years is not very long. What you can do I can do, too. So long as you are there for me, I can endure all these. I really miss Marc, dear.
Of her employer, she wrote “my employer is kind.” Her only complaint was that she was barred from drinking coffee. Edwin told me his wife said her employer did not like the smell of coffee.
The absence of coffee made Juanita’s head ache at times and she wrote in exasperation a month into her contract:
“i need coffee!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i cant live without it! coffee..coffee…..”
On the second month of her work in SkyTower in Kowloon where her employer lived, Juanita took to posting Bible quotations on her Facebook Wall. One of them was from John 3:16:
for GOD so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whsoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
And this is one of the last photos she posted of herself in the garden fronting SkyTower, Kowloon:
I found it curious that two years before her death, Juanita wrote about the need in this world for self-sacrifice after she watched the disaster movie 2012:
i watch the movie 2012…kung ganun ang mangya2ri stin kawawa nman kme kc we cant afford to buy a ticket worth 1billion euro, converted to 46.6billion pesos…suppose that its gonna be real” mahirap tlga maging mahirap” as the saying goes by. pero in the story good heart wins…some are going to sacrifice to save many lives, God only knows and sometimes we have to admit that we r going to go there what we called end
[I watched the movie 2012…if that is what will happen to us, then we’re doomed because we can’t afford to buy a ticket worth one billion euro, converted to 46.6 billion pesos…(I) suppose that it’s gonna be really hard to be poor as the saying goes. But in the story the good heart wins…some are going to sacrifice to save many lives. God only knows and sometimes we have to admit that we are (all) going to go there, what we call (the) end.]